Zynga Game Network, Inc., which describes itself as “the number one social gaming company with 30 million daily active users,” obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order against its competitor Playdom, Inc. and two former Zynga employees. Z ynga both filed the case in the Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County, and obtained the temporary restraining order on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.  Zynga asserted its entitlement to injunctive relief on trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition grounds under California law.

In its Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (posted on TechCrunch) Zynga alleges that two of its employees retained trade secret-laden documents prior to resigning to join Playdom. Specifically, the Motion asserts that Zynga employee David Rohrl copied three files to a USB storage device before business hours roughly two weeks before his resignation. The files in question concern the design and modification of some of Zynga’s online games. The Motion further alleges that Zynga employee Raymond Holmes e-mailed a number of documents to his personal e-mail account on the days leading up to his August 24, 2009 resignation from Zynga. Among the e-mailed documents was Zynga’s “Playbook,” a document that Zynga describes as “literally the recipe book that contains Zynga’s ‘secret sauce,’ and its contents would be invaluable to a competitor like Playdom.” Zynga adds that Holmes deleted these e-mails from his "Sent" e-mail folder on his computer on the date of his resignation.

Zynga also sets forth a series of allegations that Playdom obtained Zynga trade secrets through its process of recruiting Zynga employee Martha Sapeta. Playdom recruiter Jennifer Farris gave Sapeta assignments to provide suggestions to improve Playdom games, including an instruction that Sapeta’s proposed features “can be a straight up ripoff from our competitors [sic] app.” Zynga also asserted (albeit in a vaguer fashion) that Playdom also obtained Zynga trade secrets in its recruitment of Zynga employee Scott Siegel.

Although not central to its Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Zynga also adds in a back story concerning Playdom’s alleged previous efforts to obtain Zynga trade secrets and confidential information. Zynga describes an effort by Playdom to use a sophisticated computer algorithm to obtain information about users of Zynga’s Texas Hold ‘Em game and then to solicit those users to play Poker Palace, a competing Playdom game. Zynga also claims that Playdom used the trademark of Mafia Wars, a Zynga game, in an advertisement for Mobsters, a competing Playdom offering.

The Court entered the Temporary Retraining Order in exactly the form submitted by Zynga. The Order forbids Playdom, Holmes, and Rohrl from a variety of activities, including using certain Zynga information, attempting to recreate Zynga’s applications to which Holmes and Rohrl had access at Zynga, and inducing Zynga employees to violate contractual obligations or their duties of loyalty. The Court further executed an Electronic Preservation Order that compels the Defendants to preserve potentially relevant information, identify a number of categories of data, and, most significantly, provide a number of electronic storage devices to Zynga’s forensic expert for imaging.  Finally, the Court set forth an expedited discovery schedule culminating in a preliminary injunction hearing on October 1, 2009.  We expect a flurry of activity in the case leading up to that date.